Road race timing and scoring has entered into a new era. The
widely accepted tear-off tag system has always created significant
demands on race timers, race directors, and finish line volunteers.
The larger the race, the larger these demands.
The new space-age technology employs a system where a runner wears a computer chip on his shoe. As the chip crosses over a set of special mats at the finish line, the chip sends its unique identification number to antennas in the mats. The time and number are then recorded in the finish line computers.
As a result, no chutes are needed, there are no back-ups at the finish line, the amount of needed finish line volunteers decreases significantly, and the results tabulation is practically instant.
This system is called the ChampionChip, and it was first introduced in The Netherlands in 1994. The ChampionChip is a small plastic disk (less than 1.5" in diameter) containing a miniature transponder. It is attached to the runner's shoe lace. For triathlons, a velcro ankle bracelet is worn by the triathlete.
The basis for the ChampionChip timing system is the high-frequency
identification system (TIRIS) from Texas Instruments. This is
the same technology that is also used for security-locks in cars,
admission control in buildings, and automated toll lanes on expressways.
For race timing, special antennas are cast in thin tartan mats,
and the mats are placed at the finish line and other timing locations.
Each time a ChampionChip comes within the detection range of the
antennas, the ChampionChip activates and sends its unique identification
number to the reading antennas in the mats. The data is then stored
with the corresponding time in a computer. A ChampionChip system
with a 12 foot wide mat can score more than 1,500 athletes per
minute without missing anyone!
Each ChampionChip contains a miniature transponder with its
own unique seven-character identification code. The transponder
is encased with an energizing coil in a waterproof capsule. The
transponder is passive until moving into the magnetic field generated
by the ChampionChip antenna mats. The magnetic field activates
the ChampionChip's energy coil, producing an electric current
that energizes the transponder. The transponder then transmits
its unique identification code to the reading antennas located
in the same mats. There are no batteries in the ChampionChip -
it uses a few simple laws of physics to seemingly pull its energy
out of the air.
Since its first commercial use at the 1994 Berlin Marathon, ChampionChip systems have timed thousands of events around the world including the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, the UPMC City of Pgh Marathon, the Ironman Triathlon and the Disneyworld Marathon. In 1999, more than 2500 events worldwide used the ChampionChip technology.